Pitt Meadows council passed a multi-million dollar plan to move people and traffic Tuesday without support for a contentious yet-to-be built road through farmland.
The North Lougheed Connector – a proposed 3.6-kilometre route stretching from Harris Road to Golden Ears Way – was a sticking point for two councillors who had trouble supporting the transportation master plan while mention of the road was included.
Bruce Bell and Janis Elkerton don’t want taxpayers to foot the bill for the connector, which is expected to cost $17.5 million just to construct. The plan estimates the city will have to contribute at least $6 million for the connector. Add on an interchange at Harris and Lougheed and the city’s portion of the $52 million project balloons to $18.5 million.
“The cost of these capital projects has to be looked at very closely because … I don’t know how we are going to pay for it,” said Elkerton.
Both Bell and Elkerton believe the connector is unnecessary, though it’s being pitched as an alternate route to Old Dewdney Trunk Road. In fact, the transportation plan estimates only six per cent of Lougheed Hwy. traffic would be diverted to North Lougheed Connector, should it be built.
Bell would rather focus on finding a solution for the failing, congested intersection at Harris and Lougheed and worries the connector diverts attention away from it.
“Are we watering down what we really need,” he asked, noting the total tally could be much more than $18 million when you add on land acquisition, engineering, design and legal costs.
Bell and Elkerton proposed that council support the master plan, but remove anything pertaining to the North Lougheed Connector from it.
Coun. Gwen O’Connell reluctantly supported the amendment because, without her endorsement, the transportation plan was facing defeat.
“I am going to support the amendment because I don’t want to get into a dog and pony show on camera because that is what’s going to happen,” she said during a televised meeting at city hall.
O’Connell noted the transportation master plan was a long-term outlook.
“There are some scary numbers in here, but there are in every capital plan you have for 10, 15 years,” she added. “But every item that comes forward, council always has the ability to say no, we are not going to pay for that.”
Mayor Deb Walters did not support the amendment as she worries it will affect the city’s efforts to lobby for funding.
“Since the beginning of this year, we had been working tirelessly, around the clock, lobbying the provincial government, lobbying the federal government, so that we get funding for the interchange at Lougheed and Harris,” said Walters.
She later added that the interchange and connector are two separate projects and the figures listed in the plan are likely inflated.
To put the entire transportation plan into action, the city would need $32.4 million. Those costs include upgrades to transit, bike paths and pedestrian-oriented improvements.
Council will discuss the North Lougheed project at a workshop in fall.